Texas Takes Big Step Toward Improving Teacher Pay and Retention

Texas has struggled with teacher shortages and retention issues for years, but the state legislature recently passed a landmark bill that aims to turn things around. The Texas Teacher Pay Raise Bill represents the largest investment in teacher compensation in decades and has the potential to stem the tide of teachers leaving the profession.

Known as Senate Bill 2, the legislation would provide pay raises for all Texas public school teachers, with even larger increases targeted at rural educators to help close salary gaps. The bill also expands programs designed to reward high-performing teachers. Supporters say the bill will elevate the teaching profession, helping recruit and retain talented teachers.

Across-the-Board Raises for All Teachers

The main idea behind SB 2 is to give all Texas public school teachers a pay raise. For the first year, teachers would get a one-time payment of $3,000 to $10,000, depending on how big their district is. Schools with less than 5,000 students would get $10,000 per teacher, while schools with more than 5,000 students would only get $3,000.

Starting in the second year, the bill would permanently boost teacher salaries. Every teacher would receive an ongoing $3,000 pay hike. For rural districts under 5,000 students, teachers would get an additional $7,000 on top of that base increase, for a total of $10,000 more than their prior salary.

Spreading the raises over two years allows time for school districts to adjust their budgets. The first year’s retention payments come from state general revenue rather than the school funding formula.

Closing the Rural-Urban Pay Gap

A major goal of the bill is bringing rural teacher salaries more in line with their urban peers. In some rural districts, starting salaries reportedly lag nearly $30,000 below the state average. This pay gap has made it difficult for small and rural districts to attract and retain teachers.

The two-tiered raise structure delivers more money to teachers in sub-5,000 student districts mostly in rural areas. The $10000 raise for rural teachers would significantly narrow salary differences between small and large districts.

Supporters say the rural focus is crucial for addressing teacher shortages. While urban districts can more easily fill vacancies, rural schools often struggle to find qualified teachers across the board. Improving rural pay makes teaching jobs more appealing and competitive in remote areas.

Expanding Merits-Based Teacher Incentives

Along with across-the-board raises, SB 2 expands eligibility for the Teacher Incentive Allotment – a program that gives exemplary teachers additional merit pay Under the bill, the allotment would apply to at least 50% of teachers, enabling more to earn extra compensation for exceptional performance

The program awards annual designations to top-performing educators who take on leadership roles, teach in high needs areas, or deliver outstanding academic results. Designations come with pay bumps ranging from $4,000-$17,000.

Since its 2019 launch, over 7,000 teachers have earned allotments. But current participation is limited to less than a quarter of teachers statewide Broadening eligibility allows more standout teachers to receive bonuses on top of their new base pay

Other Key Elements

Along with boosting teacher pay, Senate Bill 2 contains other provisions related to education funding and policy:

  • Increased Per-Student Funding: The basic per-student allotment would rise by $75. This allows overall funding to keep pace with inflation and enrollment growth.

  • Doubled School Safety Allotments: Per-student and per-campus allotments for safety would double. This enables more security upgrades and mental health resources.

  • Parental Rights Expansion: Parents would have more rights to see school materials and give permission for the curriculum. The bill also restricts certain diversity-related topics.

  • Classroom Discipline Changes: Teachers would have authority to remove disruptive students from class. Students could only return with the teacher’s consent.

  • Expanded School Choice Options: Families would have more opportunities to transfer children between districts or use state funds for private schooling.

Widespread Support But Some Opposition

The teacher pay raise bill has earned enthusiastic support from top Texas leaders including Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Patrick described it as a “game-changer for educational freedom” that also “elevates the teaching profession.” Many teacher groups welcomed the pay hike plans.

However, some teacher associations and education groups have criticized aspects of the legislation. They argue it underfunds overall education needs, imposes unnecessary barriers for families seeking transfers, and includes problematic limits on classroom discussions. There are also concerns over erosion of public school funding via voucher-style programs.

Despite these objections, the bill garnered overwhelming Senate approval with only one opposing vote. It reflects a major legislative push to invest in teachers and address education staffing problems plaguing Texas schools. But the bill still requires approval from the Texas House before going to the Governor’s desk.

Looking Ahead

Passage of a teacher pay raise bill would mark an important milestone. But transforming Texas education will require a long-term commitment. While boosting pay could stem attrition, it may take years to replenish classroom experience lost during the pandemic.

Ongoing focus will be needed on mentoring programs, classroom resources, student supports, and other areas impacting teacher retention and effectiveness. Non-monetary factors such as workplace culture and administrative burdens affect teacher job satisfaction as well.

Still, providing substantial pay increases represents a critical first step. Rewarding educators financially shows their value and can alleviate financial pressures that today dissuade many from entering or staying in the field. With the right follow-through, Texas can parlay its new teacher pay raise law into sustained gains in teacher recruitment, retention and performance.

Texas Teacher Pay Raise Bill

Cristal Johnson, Spring ISD

It’s safe to say most public school teachers aren’t in it for the money.

That’s something that Cristal Johnson knew nearly a decade ago when she left her private sector engineering job.

She teaches engineering and robotics to high schoolers. Her salary right now is mid-$60,000, but that’s only because she has taken on extra responsibilities, like coaching, serving as a team lead and tutoring after school.

At some point, she fell into the cycle of pay-day loans. Research shows that these loans are harmful to borrowers, in part, because the payments required are too big, and they are encouraged to refinance.

While she’s doing better now, Johnson said a salary increase would still be very helpful.

But she doesn’t want school vouchers. So, she’s made peace with not having a salary bump this year.

Raven Morris, Princeton ISD

From Monday through Friday, Raven Morris teaches reading language arts at Princeton Independent School District outside of Plano.

But her week doesn’t end there. From Friday evening to Sunday, Morris works at Trader Joe’s in McKinney.

As a teacher, she makes about $59,000. That’s not enough for Morris to cover her rent, utilities, car loan and car insurance, making supplemental income from her part-time job essential.

Still, Morris said she’d rather not have a salary bump if that means no school vouchers in the state.

She said she barely has days off and it is impossible to do anything else, including hanging out with friends.

Texas bill would raise teacher pay: Here’s how it would work

Will Texas teachers get a pay raise?

(AUSTIN) — The Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would grant a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise for all Texas teachers, with even more going toward teachers in smaller districts and those that perform exceptionally in the classroom.

How much would a teacher raise cost a year?

A couple of bills have already been filed calling for teacher raises, including House Bill 1548, which would give teachers a $15,000 pay raise and a 25% pay raise for other school employees. At least one estimate from the Association of Texas Professional Educators says such raises would cost $12 billion every two years.

What was the last teacher pay increase in Texas?

However, the last teacher pay increase was through House Bill 3 (HB 3), passed by the state legislature in 2019. The HB 3 bill provided for: $6.5 billion in additional funding for public education, including $2 billion for teacher pay raises. An average pay increase of about $4,000 per year for Texas teachers.

Are teacher pay increases a priority in Texas?

Other legislators in Texas have prioritized teacher pay increases. According to The Texas Tribune, both State and House in Texas have proposed raises in teacher pay. For example, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick Lists Teacher pay raise as a priority.

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